Q & A with the Right Honourable Paul Martin, founder of the Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity and Entrepreneurship Fund
Right Honourable Paul Martin: Entrepreneurship is part-and-parcel of the Aboriginal DNA. The first industry in this country after European contact was the fur trade. The fur trade was built by First Nations and Métis entrepreneurs. There is a huge number of Aboriginal entrepreneurs in Canada today; it’s just not big enough. We wanted to do whatever we could do to encourage it.
Startup Canada: How can we empower all Canadians through entrepreneurship?
Right Honourable Paul Martin: Entrepreneurship is by definition empowering. The empowering benefits of entrepreneurship are something that would make a huge difference in the future of Aboriginal communities right across the country.
Startup Canada:: Do we need to do a better job of connecting individuals with the skills and entrepreneurial competencies to grow businesses?
Right Honourable Paul Martin: There is no doubt the development of skills and education is absolutely crucial. In fact, that’s why MAIE, the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, has two wings. One is CAPE, but the second one is our education initiative, which recognizes the huge need to increase the number of young Aboriginal Canadians graduating high school, the number of young Aboriginal Canadians going on to university and the number of young Aboriginal Canadians going into trades and apprenticeships. That fact is, education and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. The first course we set up in our education initiative was a Youth Entrepreneurship Program. Teaching youth about entrepreneurship in high school as a part of their overall capacity to understand the economy is a major step forward.
Startup Canada: Entrepreneurs are architects of a better tomorrow. What is your vision for a future built by entrepreneurs?
Right Honourable Paul Martin: Right now the global economy is going through the biggest changes since the invention of the assembly line in the 1890’s. This change is very heavily weighted towards innovation. Innovation and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. Entrepreneurs are by definition innovators. The countries that lead in innovation, the countries that lead in entrepreneurship, the countries that essentially understand the degree to which change is affecting the economy are the countries that are going to benefit, that are going to grow the best.
Startup Canada: What else do we need to do to get to a point where Canada is one of the most entrepreneurial and innovative nations?
Right Honourable Paul Martin: Providing capital is crucial, which is why we created CAPE. What you really need is a financial system that is receptive to new ideas.
Startup Canada: Lastly, what advice do you have to entrepreneurs and citizens who want to make a social or cultural difference in Canada?
Right Honourable Paul Martin: Be prepared to work like heck.